11 + exam

Summer 2018 has been a fantastic school holiday so far but a toughie at the same time. The 11+ exam is set for our first week back to school and the girls decided that they want to have a go so, our summer has been a mixture of fun activities mixed with a lot of studying.

We’ve been going over English and maths, we’ve checked their comprehension skills and we’re taking a look at verbal and non-verbal reasoning, two areas that aren’t covered at school as they’re not part of the national curriculum.

We’ve had tears and tantrums along the way but I’ve got to hand it to them as they apply themselves and are very upset when they don’t get top marks. They have the school they want in mind and are afraid they might not get in. I can’t take the exam for them but I can help them as much as possible to try and make their dream come true.

Husband and I took the decision to not tutor the girls. The cost was a huge part of our choice along with the fact that we didn’t want to push them into doing something that was out of their reach. I couldn’t think of anything worse than gaining a place in a school only to find them struggling to keep up with the class. I certainly don’t want to set them up for failure but I do want the very best for them.

I bought a set of Bond books from Amazon aged 9 – 10. The girls were doing very well and getting 80% and over which was very encouraging. The advice at the back of the book is to go up to the next level if they are getting 80% +. So I did.

Uh-oh. I didn’t know that between the two levels there was such an enormous gap and the girls were coming across work they haven’t even covered yet at school. After a quick online discussion a friend, who is also a tutor, informed me that that level was intended for children in Year 6 who take the exam in January and therefore are slightly ahead. With this knowledge, we started to look at the girls scores in a different light and saw that actually, they were doing well. My friend also advised me to concentrate on the verbal and non verbal reasoning with continued exercise in English and Maths.

Fingers crossed. The twins will sit their exam on 6th September. If they don’t get it, it’s not the end of the world, there are plenty of other great schools out there but for the moment, we’re going for the dream.

Good luck to anyone else who’s going for it.

Numbalee

Does the thought of helping your child master maths make you groan with despair? I feel your pain. I can show the twins spellings, comprehensions and English tests until my heart’s content but try anything maths related and it’ll end in tears if I’m not careful. When I was asked if we’d like to review the new fun maths game Numbalee, I jumped at the chance with every hope that it would be fun and the girls would become more confident in their maths.

Numbalee is a neatly packaged game in a zip bag containing 150 number tiles, two 12-sided number dice, one maths symbol dice and five symbol discs alongside an instruction booklet for 12  family games.

The game is aimed at players aged 6+ (perfect for Key Stage 1 and 2) and can be played from 1 – 8 players as there are a range of games to play solo for practice or competitively in a group. Players are encouraged to talk through the sums they are making to improve their understanding and their confidence.

Each of the games has been designed to cater for a wide range of abilities and specifically to improve skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The game was initially created by Oliver Leck to help a friend’s daughter who was struggling with maths in school. He spotted that there weren’t any fun maths games on the market and together with his father, a teacher, he developed the game with primary school children in mind.

What’s the verdict?

With my teaching assistant hat on I can say this game is an excellent resource for practising the essential maths skills needed in everyday life. It also makes my afternoon interventions more exciting, the children look forward to playing a game with me rather than ‘doing maths’.

I also gave Numbalee to a few members of my school Blog Club to get some feedback and where they (Year 5 and 6) enjoyed the game and played happily for an hour, they said it wasn’t for them. I asked them why and they said it was ‘too easy’ for them.

Would you recommend it to anyone else? I asked. ‘Yes, for the younger students. It would be perfect for them.’ came my reply.

Numbalee is now available online (RRP £19.99) at www.numbalee.com as well as on Amazon.

A dozen roses in watercolour markers and black pen

I got a B in my O Level art, I painted a magpie in a bird’s nest, I think the prompt I chose was ‘an intruder’ and I remember being mightily pleased with my efforts. I often wish I had taken art further but truth be known, at 17 I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do.

Although being creative has never left me, I never really settled down to paint or draw again and always found myself saying, ‘Im no good at art.’ This gave me the perfect excuse to not even try. Plus it seemed, everyone was so much better at it than me, I would just ridicule myself if I tried, I would be uncovered as a dud artist the minute I put pencil to paper.

For years, my desire to draw and paint was squashed and forgotten, stuffed in an unused filing cabinet in the recesses of my mind.

Then a couple of Christmases ago I was given an adult colouring book. I was delighted and treated myself to a lovely set of pencils with a drawstring holder to keep them in. I spent time filling in the intricate designs and confess to still having lots of pages to complete! I quickly realised that I loved colouring in but, halfway through the picture I was getting bored with the repetition and blankness of mind. Although great for thinking time, the only creativity I was getting was choosing colours or blending them to my own choice.

I needed something more.

The following year I bought a copy of The Year Of The Doodle… 365 pages with a daily prompt to doodle. I didn’t get very far. Something was missing and I wasn’t getting much enjoyment from the book.

draw every day draw every way

Whilst surfing the internet for the umpteenth time towards the end of last year in search of novelty stocking fillers, I came across an intriguing book called Draw Every Day Draw Every Way. A book that focused monthly on different areas and gave daily prompts for pictures to draw. What’s more, each month uses different materials so you get to use a lot of different techniques and discover your own art.

I bought two copies, Alice said she didn’t want one, and Bessie and I sat down to have a go at the first section in the book – a month of nature.

To start us off I find some images online and screenshot them to use as a reference for shape and colours. By the time we were halfway through the chapter Alice asked if she could have a book too seeing how much we enjoyed the process.

dragonflies - Bessie

It hasn’t been plain sailing, I have had a couple of prompts I really disliked and Bessie cried a bit over ‘A dozen roses’ … “A dozen?” she yelled at me making clear they were way too many. I told her to just do one and cross out the prompt which she did and she was happier with that, her confidence restored until next time.

I think we may have found something good here, I see others showcasing their work on Instagram and we take a look at them for inspiration too @Joglassjo for example has shown us how to add fabulous backgrounds to our images. Even though we don’t draw every day, this book with its lovely prompts have got us drawing more often and trying things we would never have thought of, like a dozen roses or one…

Watch out for our work on our Instagram channel too.

draw every day draw every way

 

National chocolate cake dayThis is just what you need in January to beat away the cold and dullness of the first month of the year – National Chocolate Cake Day!

Who knew?

Num Noms got in touch and asked if we’d like to do a spot of chocolate cake baking to celebrate the day which, of course we replied yes to! They sent us through a Series 4 Deluxe set plus a couple of Mystery Pots. Before we go any further, let me explain what Num Noms are…

Num Noms Deluxe

The Nums are hollow characters made out of a soft rubber material in bright colours with faces and a very close resemblance to cakes. Noms are the inner bits that fit inside and can include a variety of characters like nail varnishes, lip glosses or motorised characters. The beauty is you can change the Num as often as you like.

The twins were delighted to receive the Num Noms Series 4 Deluxe set and spent ages playing with them and sorting them out in their bedroom. The mystery pots are a great idea as they are an economical treat with a lovely Num Nom inside.

Num Noms Series 4 Deluxe

National Chocolate Cake Day

Now let’s get back to the chocolate part of this post …

Num Noms sent us through two Bake in the Box chocolate cakes and lots of ideas to decorate with. I must say, I have not seen the Bake in the Box before and it is a perfect product to entertain children and not end up with a whole kitchen to clean!

National chocolate Cake Day baking

The ingredients come in a sachet which you pour into the box and simply add milk. Stir it all until a smooth mixture forms and bake in the oven.

Bake in a box chocolate cake

Once cooled you can eat or decorate.

As you can imagine the girls had great fun making, baking and decorating their chocolate cakes. I would definitely recommend the Bake in a Bo cake as a great baking project with the children and judging by how much my two love their Num Noms, I’d say they make an excellent gift too.

Disclosure: We were sent the Num Noms Series 4 Deluxe box and a couple of Mystery Pots for the purpose of this post. All opinions are our own.

Best books for children

Books are always the best gift for anyone. If you’re stuck for somebody’s present there will be a whole shelf of books to choose from that they will thoroughly enjoy. Reading has always been very important to us as a family and right from the start books have been present in the girl’s lives. As babies, they had fabric books and as they have grown, so has their passion for reading – something I am keen to continue to encourage. I make sure they always have a choice of books of all different types to choose from and encourage them to read at every possible moment.

Harper Collins sent through a collection of their top books for children and asked the girls to make a video including their thoughts on each book which you can watch below…like most 9-year-olds my two want to have their own YouTube channel which I shall be setting up over the Christmas holidays for them but in the meantime, you can watch their first work on my YouTube channel.

Books for children

I think you will agree that there are some fantastic titles which are sure to intrigue even the less focused children by pulling them into some great stories and taking them on an unforgettable journey. I must admit, I shall be dipping into some of them myself!

Here is a handy list of the 2017 best-selling books for children included in the box, all of which you can find on the Harper Collins website and all of the best bookshops.

Books for under 5s

Bing’s Christmas Wish – Amanda Hepworth

Kevin – Rob Biddulph

Sunk – Rob Biddulph

Boogie Bear – David Walliams

Here we are – Oliver Jeffers

Books for children 5 – 7

Paddington Movie books

The Grotlyn – Benji Davies

Books for children 8 – 12

Geek Girl – All Wrapped Up – Holly Smale

Toto – Michael Morpurgo

Paddington 2 – Anna Wilson

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Birthday Boy – David Baddiel

Bad Boy – David Walliams

Here are our other children’s book reviews as we’d thoroughly recommend any of these too.

Kaspar Prince of Cats

Top books for tweens

The Grinch who Stole Christmas

Disclosure – We were sent a box of books for the purpose of this post, all opinions are our own.